1. The condition of a peon.
2. The practice of making a debtor work for his creditor until the debt is discharged.
Sinonimi: serfhood | vassalage
The state of a serf; SYN. serfhood, vassalage.
The legal and economic status of peasants under feudalism. Serfs could not be sold like slaves, but they were not free to leave their master's estate without his permission. They had to work the lord's land without pay for a number of days every week and pay a percentage of their produce to the lord every year. They also served as soldiers in the event of conflict. Serfs also had to perform extra labor at harvest time and other busy seasons; in return they were allowed to cultivate a portion of the estate for their own benefit. In England serfdom died out between the 14th and 17th centuries, but it lasted in France until 1789, in Russia until 1861, and in most other European countries until the early 19th century. Serf-dom.
1. Tenure by which a villein held land.
2. The legal status or condition of a villein or feudal serf; SYN. villainage.
System of serfdom that prevailed in Europe in the Middle Ages.
A villein was a peasant who gave dues and services to his lord in exchange for land. In France until the 13th century, “villeins” could refer to rural or urban non-nobles, but after this, it came to mean exclusively rural non-noble freemen. In Norman England, it referred to free peasants of relatively high status. At the time of the Domesday Book, the villeins were the most numerous element in the English population, providing the labor force for the manors.
Their social position declined until, by the early 14th century, their personal and juridical status was close to that of serfs. After the mid-14th century, as the effects of the Black Death led to a severe labor shortage, their status improved. By the 15th century villeinage had been supplanted by a system of free tenure and labor in England, but it continued in France until 1789.